With the arrival of a new decade, you may find yourself searching for the motivation to hold onto the “new year, new me” mentality, or the resolutions you made on the first of the year. You may even be sticking to your guns this year, and so far, you’ve made it a few weeks without caving in. The most important thing, however, is that you have identified a goal for yourself, and are seeking to create or maintain progress in your life.
New Year’s Resolutions, or what we call them the rest of the year: “Goals”, are important in discovering and directing the path that you choose to take. How you define your goals also determines your definition of success, and subsequently, how you end up feeling about yourself. For many of us, the launch to a new year often centers around physical health and well-being.
Routines Are the Key to Success
Routines are essential in that they operate in our lives as a way to automate our behavior toward our goals, and remove the barriers from constant decision-making. Of course, getting our actions to match our decisions is a difficult task in itself, and thus honoring routines and practicing the needed behavior on a regular basis increases our likelihood of actually reaching our goals.
Enter the focus of this article: establishing said routines in order to help us make progress towards our goals, and the Dialectical Behavior Therapy skill that can help identify the most important areas to direct our attention.
We can look to the DBT skill “PLEASE” for guidance regarding these important areas:
PL: Treat Physical Illness
E: Balanced Eating
A: Avoid Mood Altering Drugs
S: Balanced Sleep
E: Balanced Eating
Below we’ve included specific ideas for how you can translate the message of this skill into everyday practice.
PL – Get Routine Medical Care
The beginning of Dialectical Behavior Therapy skill “PLEASE” centers around the idea of treating PhysicaL illness. This means seeking out regular medical care and following up with appointments, as well as taking care of yourself when you are sick, and allowing your body the rest that it needs.
While this is not necessarily a daily habit, paying attention to our bodies and the messages it has for us is a vital practice. When you feel “off” or unwell, you are more likely to make ineffective choices when it comes to how you spend your time, how you respond to others, and how you fuel your body.
It is easy to see how attention to this aspect of your physical health directly correlates to your ability to regulate your emotions, and thus, affects your mental health. Ensuring that your body is well taken care of in order to avoid sickness and perform at your best is often a byproduct of focus on the other elements of the “PLEASE” skill.
E – Plan for When and What to Eat
When we have busy and stressful lives, sometimes it’s all we can do to remember to eat or discover that we ate a full meal without much attention. When we don’t make a plan for when and what we’ll eat, again, we may end up selecting foods that are not ultimately going to be beneficial to us. The “PLEASE” skill is clear, Balanced Eating is important in order to have energy throughout the day, fuel our gut with what it needs in order to fight off infections, and avoid the crash associated with ingesting too much sugar or caffeine, or the sluggishness that seems inevitable when we ingest too many carbs.
Eating healthy is not just about denying yourself things that you really want, but rather is about finding nutritious alternatives that you can enjoy just as much. Consider taking a day out of the week to meal plan or prepare ahead. On another note, planning a regular trip to the grocery store and deciding ahead what you would like to purchase can help you cut down on trips to the store, spending, and fast food stops throughout the week.
A – Practice Your Position
In order to align yourself with the next noteworthy element, it is your task to avoid mood-Altering drugs. This means both being compliant with your currently prescribed medication regimen, as well as establishing a firm policy against recreational drugs, alcohol, marijuana, or misusing prescriptions or taking medication not currently prescribed to you.
Although substances are often taken with the intent of decreasing anxiety or mood symptoms, rather than assisting you in your aim of managing your mood and emotions, these substances tend to only serve to dysregulate and create unhelpful dependencies. Routinely practicing what you might say, and how you’ll respond to opportunities to use will help to strengthen your resolve in the future.
S – Schedule Your Sleep
It is important to note that our bodies work best when we go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, when we stick to our routines, and when we allow enough time to restore our brains and our bodies. Balanced Sleep means devoting time to getting enough sleep just as much as it means refusing to laze about in bed all day. Adhering to a regular pattern of sleep and awake times is not only good for your health, but it helps us have the energy needed to process difficult situations and emotions when they arise.
E – Make Time to Exercise
Although we recognize that exercise is crucial to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being, we often neglect to give it the attention it needs. We often feel overwhelmed by ideas that if we’re not constantly doing high intensity training, then we are failing to meet our exercise goals. However, completing a routine stretching or yoga practice in the morning, taking a daily afternoon walk, or scheduling an evening bike ride with the family can be just as beneficial in helping you to deal with and process the stresses of a busy life.
Remember that when you are attempting to start the new year out right, although making your goals tie into existing or new routines can be helpful, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Start small, make goals that you can actually achieve, and work up to the place where you want to be in the future. And, always make sure to celebrate your steps and successes along the way!